Today, as he does every day, Jonathan Movroydis has found and linked many of the most interesting journalism of the last 24 hours. Among them is Camile Paglia’s monthly column in Salon.
As usual, this is an omnibus affair covering a variety of topics and a multitude of sins. (This considers, among other things, the reason the media trashed Sarah Palin, and the respect owed to Yma Sumac; there is, remarkably, no mention of Madonna.)
I was particularly interested by the Paglian take on the Obama-Ayers controversy. Remember that? Think back to the presidential campaign — there were some questions asked about Senator Obama’s putative connections with this radical dude who lived down the street in Chicago. I’m sure you remember it.
Ms. Paglia, who is very happy with the election results, is still objective enough to realize that her candidate was cut some serious slack by a complacent (and compliant) media. Her research led her to a conclusion that Nixonians have learned long since: that in radical couples, the wife is usually the redhot.
Pursuing the truth about Ayers, I recently rented the 2002 documentary “The Weather Underground,” from Netflix. It was riveting. Although the film seems to waver between ominous exposé and blatant whitewash, the full extent of the group’s bombing campaign is dramatically demonstrated. It’s not for everyone: The film uses gratuitous cutaways of horrifying carnage, from the Vietnam War to the Manson murders (such as Sharon Tate’s smiling corpse, bathed in blood). But the news footage of the Greenwich Village townhouse destroyed in 1970 by bomb-making gone wrong in the basement still has enormous impact. Standing in the chaotic street, actor Dustin Hoffman, who lived next door, seems like Everyman at the apocalypse.
Ayers comes off in the film as a vapid, slightly dopey, chronic juvenile with stunted powers of ethical reasoning. The real revelation is his wife, Bernardine Dohrn (who evidently worked at the same large Chicago law firm as Michelle Obama in the mid-1990s). Of course I had heard of Dohrn — hers was one of the most notorious names of our baby-boom generation — and I knew her black-and-white police mug shot. But I had never seen footage of her speaking or interacting with others. Well, it’s pretty obvious who wears the pants in that family!
The mystery of Bernardine Dohrn: How could such a personable, attractive, well-educated young woman end up saying such things at a 1969 political rally as this (omitted in the film) about the Manson murders: “Dig it. First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into a victim’s stomach. Wild!” And how could Dohrn have so ruthlessly pursued a decade-long crusade of hatred and terrorism against innocent American citizens and both private and public property?
“The Weather Underground” never searches for answers, but it does show Dohrn, then and now, as a poised, articulate woman of extremely high intelligence and surprising inwardness. The audio extra of her reading the collective’s first public communiqué (“Revolutionary violence is the only way”) is chilling. But the tumultuous footage of her 1980 surrender to federal authorities is a knockout. Mesmerized, I ran the clip six or seven times of her seated at a lawyer’s table while reading her still defiant statement. The sober scene — with Dohrn hyper-alert in a handsome turtleneck and tweedy jacket — was tailor-made for Jane Fonda in her “Klute” period, androgynous shag. Only illegalities by federal investigators prevented Dohrn from being put away on ice for a long, long time.
Given that Obama had served on a Chicago board with Ayers and approved funding of a leftist educational project sponsored by Ayers, one might think that the unrepentant Ayers-Dohrn couple might be of some interest to the national media. But no, reporters have been too busy playing mini-badminton with every random spitball about Sarah Palin, who has been subjected to an atrocious and at times delusional level of defamation merely because she has the temerity to hold pro-life views.
Ms. Dohrn was a vital part —perhaps the vital part— of the Ayers-Obama story that was successfully finessed. She is an Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law and the Director of Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center.